Six-day strike at BBC Arabic service starts Saturday
July 28th, 2011 - 14:21 UTC
by Andy Sennitt.

National Union of Journalists (NUJ) members working at the BBC Arabic service are to stage a six day strike starting on Saturday, the union has announced. The strike is in addition to the BBC-wide action happening on 1 August, which now includes an indefinite work to rule. It will begin at midnight on Friday 29 July and end on midnight on Thursday 4 August. A work to rule is also being applied.

The industrial action at the Arabic service comes as a result of a dispute over working conditions and the implementation of a new rota system. In a statement, the BBC said they were ‘disappointed’ with the decision to strike and apologised for any disruption to services caused. It continued: ‘Following significant cuts to the central Government grants that support the World Service, all departments are being asked to make changes and the BBC considers this strike action to be unjustified.’

‘The BBC announced proposals for BBC Arabic in June 2010 with aim of driving efficiencies to allow more investment on programming. The proposals included changes to working conditions and rotas which are comparable with staff working on other news outlets in the BBC.’

NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: ‘No consideration has been given to the need for adequate staffing levels balanced against meet the needs of output, so that the number of anti-social and unsafe shift times would be vastly increased. This will drastically disrupt people’s lives and will lead to dramatically increased levels of work-related stress and sickness.’ She added: ‘Journalists at the Arabic service are particularly concerned at the vagueness of duties and how management plans will leave staff vulnerable to exploitation and favouritism.’

Both parties said they were open to further discussion. NUJ members at the service previously went on strike for 48 hours in January over a dispute involving rota changes.